NHS bosses have been urged by the Department of Health to maximise the number of their frontline staff who receive the swine flu vaccination.
Chief executives running hospitals, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities have been written to six times in the past five weeks by leading figures including the chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, about concerns that frontline staff may not take the vaccination.
Hospital chief executives have told the Guardian that they expect as few as 10% to 20% of their staff to take the swine flu vaccination and they cannot fulfil the government’s demands because the vaccinations – which are due to begin within days – are voluntary.
The Department of Health’s letters stress that the NHS could be left seriously short-staffed through virus-related absenteeism if senior managers can not overcome “perceived obstacles” to the vaccination of workers.
Ian Dalton, the NHS’s national director of flu resilience, wrote on 10 September: “We all know that uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine among NHS staff is traditionally low. It is an NHS board responsibility that we do not find ourselves in this position with the swine flu vaccine.”